Phil Emery expects improvement from struggling safety Chris Conte
By MARK POTASH AND PATRICK FINLEY Staff reporters February 20, 2014 9:36PM
Updated: February 21, 2014 2:33AM
INDIANAPOLIS — The Bears haven’t given up on Chris Conte.
The safety struggled through a difficult 2013 and ranked 82nd out of 86 safeties, according to Pro Football Focus. While safety remains an area of need (Major Wright, a free agent, was last among safeties), it appears the Bears will give Conte a chance to keep the job.
“My vision for him is that he does compete and win it,” general manager Phil Emery said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I’d love to be talking to him about an extension. So let’s see what he does.’’
The 2011 third-round pick, who has one year left on his rookie contract, might benefit from competition coming from new draftees and free agents.
‘‘The No. 1 thing for Chris making improvements is Chris himself,’’ Emery said. ‘‘I’m not counting on other guys getting better to help another player improve. It’s on them individually and obviously collectively. If we improve individually, we’ll improve as a group.’’
Seven weeks after Emery said Henry Melton had to “fully dedicate himself to rehab,” coach Marc Trestman said the defensive tackle has.
“If you see him,” Trestman said, “you’ll see that he has been training and he has been working. He’s very focused. You’ll see he dropped some weight. He looks very good physically right now.”
Melton angered Bears officials when he was arrested in late December when he was supposed to be rehabbing his torn left knee.
Emery said he is “making positive progress” now.
Melton, who arrives early at Halas Hall daily, spoke to Trestman for more than 30 minutes Wednesday.
“We do want to bring back Henry,” Emery said, “and we’ll work through that process.”
This and that
Emery declared the three-way battle for the punter job — between incumbent Adam Podlesh and Tress Way and Drew Butler — is “wide open.” Butler’s father, Kevin is the team’s all-time scoring leader.
◆ Emery was hardly effusive when asked about free agent returner Devin Hester, saying simply he was “productive” and “did a good job.”
◆ The Bears want free-agent center Roberto Garza to return, Trestman said.
◆ Tackle Jordan Mills is on schedule to return from left foot surgery, Emery said.